When plans for the Streamsong Resort were first announced in 2010, I’ll admit I was skeptical.
Nothing about a golf resort built in the absolute middle of nowhere sounded like a great idea, especially given the number of resorts in Florida that have their best days well behind them. Combine that with an economy that was still struggling at best and it seemed the developers of Streamsong had seen a mirage while wandering the desert that was their abandoned phosphate mine.
After experiencing the finished product first hand, it appears that my early thoughts on Streamsong had failed to take into account that valuable lesson which Kevin Costner taught us many years ago.
If you build it… They will come.
Make no mistake, Streamsong is 50 miles from the nearest thing resembling civilization. Like Bandon, Kohler, or even Pinehurst, however, the resort’s remote location is more than offset by the unique set of circumstances that make it an ideal setting for exceptional golf. In this case, the previously mentioned phosphate mine and its towering sand dunes are similar to those found on links courses across the pond. Soon after turning off the country road that leads to Streamsong, the feeling of isolation gives way to that of anticipation and the sense that something special is waiting to be discovered amongst those dunes.
Of course, that something special is Streamsong’s pair of highly acclaimed courses — the Red designed by Coore & Crenshaw, and the Blue by Tom Doak. Despite having roughly 16,000 acres of available land, the courses at Streamsong both run over the same general piece of property, even criss-crossing one another at various times. Yet to call the Red and the Blue “sister courses” would be a disservice. Tom Doak himself once called the two “cousins,” a description that seems much more fitting.
Although there is much that the two have in common, there are some very noticeable differences between Streamsong Red and Blue. For yours truly, the Red seemed more playable through the green, with a welcome absence of forced carries and blind shots. That generous concession was more than offset, however, by enormous greens that were formidable at best and downright treacherous at their worst.
Meanwhile, over on the Blue side, slightly smaller and less severe greens were joined by hazards that seemed more in play, and bunkers that at times were best described as craters. Particularly memorable was the bunker short of the No. 4 green, which is reminiscent of the massively deep trap on the same hole at Doak’s Barnbougle Dunes.
Along with their individual traits, there are plenty of similarities that tie Streamsong Red and Blue together. For starters, very little earth had to be moved for either course, as most of that was done over 50 years ago by the phosphate miners. This fit nicely into the minimalist style of both designers. In addition, aside from the “native” areas similar to those at Pinehurst No. 2, there is not a blade of rough to be found on either course. Instead, the golfer is presented with insanely generous fairways, and greens that are surrounded by enormous collection areas as opposed to thick grass. Those run-off areas many times lead right to the start of the next hole, where one doesn’t find a neatly defined tee box outlined with rough, but rather just two markers basically placed right on the fairway.
After spending two days at Streamsong, I came away with several pieces of advice that will come in handy for anyone planning a visit. First and foremost, spend plenty of time practicing your bump and run shots, as well as putting from well off the green. Finding the collection areas that surround every green might seem like the better deal as opposed to a bunker, but the severity of the greens and lack of experience putting from 10 yards off the green made getting up and down a truly difficult task. Case in point: I recorded my very first five putt of my career on No. 18 of the Red course.
In addition, don’t make the same mistake I did and not set aside time to enjoy the other amenities offered by the resort. There’s a full service spa, skeet shooting and guided bass fishing, which seemed to be the topic of choice each morning on the putting green. The lakes at Streamsong are filled with so many huge bass that the resort was asked by the state to record how many catches over eight pounds have been made on its property. So far this year, the number is approaching 30.
So comes the inevitable question — which course is better?
Most of the reviews I read leading up to the visit gave an edge to the Red course. When debating the subject over dinner in one of the lodge’s restaurants, cleverly named P2O5 (the compound for Phosphate), the consensus around the table was that the Blue was better. The consensus minus one, that is. I was the lone dissenter in favor of the Red.
Something everyone is sure to agree on, however, is that Streamsong is a one of a kind experience. When the resort was announced four years ago, it promised a world-class golf resort unlike anything else in the state of Florida. I was skeptical, but that’s exactly what they’ve delivered. And with thousands upon thousands of acres still at their disposal, something tells me that Streamsong Red and Blue won’t be alone.